Los Angeles hospital to train barbers in black neighborhoods to test for hypertension

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A physician at a Los Angeles hospital will use an $8.5 million grant to help train barbers in black neighborhoods to check their male customers for high blood pressure.

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center's Dr. Ronald G. Victor, head of the hospital's hypertension center, says uncontrolled hypertension is one of the biggest health problems facing the African-American community. Victor tells KPCC that the project will start with a study involving about 500 men at 20 L.A.-area barbershops. It's an 18-month pilot program. 

"African-American men are particularly devastated by hypertension because they have high rates of high blood pressure, but less contact with the health care system, and so lower rates of treatment and inappropriate control," Victor told KPCC. "You know, barbershops are really a social hub of the African-American male community, and they are really uniquely personal settings to discuss health with influential male peers."

Victor published a study in 2011 showing that barber shop-based outreach could help save hundreds of lives, according to the Associated Press.

"The barbers will have formal training in the barbershop," Victor told KPCC. "Rather than having all the barbers do it, the one busiest barber who usually is either the working manager or the owner of the shop, will have a formal training program to learn about blood pressure, how to use electronic blood pressure cuff to measure the blood pressure, and how to do it accurately, and how to educate the customers about the importance of diet and exercise as well as medication."

Victor's grant comes from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the AP reports.

This story has been updated.

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